USLRA: You won your first pro tournament last month at the La Crosse Open, certainly a big milestone.
Birdsong: It was exiting. I had to roll some tough people, including my coach Carl Rick. Carl is a very good roller, really knows what he’s doing. My last match was against Web Beckstead, and it was a nice feeling (to clinch the win). I’ve been working hard and it paid off, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do.
USLRA: What were the emotions like after winning?
Birdsong: It felt great. In some ways it almost didn’t feel real. People were quite surprised to see me come out and win a tournament like this. The first person I saw after I think was my Dad. He was pretty excited. He was surprised. It was nice.
USLRA: Over your past three sanctioned pro tournaments, dating back to last year’s Three Rivers Roleo, and this year’s La Crosse Open and Midwest Championships, you’ve picked up a win and two runner ups. How much has your confidence improved in the past 10 months?
Birdsong: It helps a lot. It shows me that I can perhaps have a chance to be competitive at Worlds. The Roleo really helped me get a starting point for this year. I had to work hard to get back to where I was and I’m just working on getting better.
USLRA: You, along with Dominik Serpico and Spencer Wilkinson are all currently ranked in the top seven among pro men. The three of you are the same age and grew up rolling as amateurs since you were about 12 years old. How much have you guys helped each other develop along the way?
Birdsong: Spencer and Dominik have always been there, it’s probably been at least five years since I’ve gone to a tournament without rolling at least one of them. They’ve really set a baseline. We’ve all been improving together at pretty much the same rate. Dominik tends to be a fast roller, and we’re a bucking match, so I’ve had to learn to control it with him. Spencer and I run, and he’s also a very quick roller. Rolling him has helped me learn how to adjust my form.
USLRA: Later this month will be your second year rolling as a pro at World Championships. How different is it now preparing compared to last year as a rookie?
Birdsong: I remember my first time rolling J.R. (Salzman) was incredibly nerve wracking. Ever since I starting going to Worlds about 6 years ago and watching (as a kid) he’s always been number one, just an incredible force. This year I’ve been training a lot more, at least an hour every day, if not on the log, then running. I do ab work and a little bit of weight work. I feel a lot more ready going into this year, I hope to shake off some of the nerves I had last year.